A photo of Sequoia National Forest that a friend of mine took when he was making trails in the back country there in 1986.
I heard the phone ring, but thought it was my alarm. I was confused at first, because I was pretty sure it was Saturday and my alarm is only set to ring during the week. I finally figured it out and answered my phone.
Neal: Hey there. What are you doing?
Me: (Trying not to sound like I just woke up) Nothing?
I looked to see what time it was and realized it was barely 9. That would mean it was 7 in the morning in California. What kind of insensitive idiot calls someone before 10 am on a weekend day?
Neal: You feel like coming to see Van Morrison play at the Greek Theater on the 1st?
Me: What? The first of which month?
Neal: June. You wanna come?
Me: (in disbelief) No. I don't live that kind of life. I can't just take off to see a concert in Berkeley. I wouldn't miss that much work or spend that kind of money unless I was doing something with my girls. Sorry.
In my head all I kept thinking was, "Shit. Shit. Shit! How do I get out of this?"
Neal: (sounding disappointed) Oh. Okay. So, um....Are you going running today?
Me: Oh, no. I have to go out of town to do this family thing in...Ottumwa. How about you? Are you going running?
Neal: No. I might walk into town at some point. I think... (Extremely long and awkward pause that I didn't even fill with nervous laughter, like I usually do when I'm on the phone)...Hey, my son got MVP on his basketball team...
Me: That's great. Did you go see one of his games?
Neal: No. He knows I don't like basketball. I've never been very good at it. If he played football, ran track or played baseball, I'd go see him. He's fine with it. He's really well adjusted. We talk on the phone, but I just don't really have time to go visit him...
Me: (not even trying to hide the annoyance and judgment in my voice) Really? Are you serious? Don't you think he'd be thrilled if you he saw you sitting in the stands at one of his games? Didn't you say that you were really hurt when you were younger and your dad wasn't around for you?
That was pretty nice of me. In my head I was thinking, "Can you be a parent and really be that fucking selfish? Do you understand how unattractive that is to a single mom? No, probably not, or you wouldn't tell me that and still think I'd ever date you.
Neal: No. That wasn't me. That must have been some other guy you dated...Or maybe that was my brother. My brother was really pissed-off at my dad. I already told you my son was fine with that. He doesn't feel abandoned by me at all. My ex was the one who decided to move my son an hour away from me, so I guess that's what she gets...Actually, I've been talking to my ex a couple of times a week lately...
Me: Hey, that's great. Maybe you guys can finally work things out...
Neal: Yeah, well...I gotta go. My cat's jumping all around on my deck.
Me: (laughing a little at his excuse, but also relieved) Well, you better go take care of your jumping pus...cat then. Bye.